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Kremlin aide dismisses Russian poverty report

AFP logoAFP 06/04/2019
a man wearing a suit and tie: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov (pictured March 2019) questioned the criteria for the study, saying it was "more academic in nature" than practical © MAXIM SHEMETOV Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov (pictured March 2019) questioned the criteria for the study, saying it was "more academic in nature" than practical

An aide to President Vladimir Putin on Friday dismissed a study showing some Russians were too poor to buy new shoes, prompting criticism the Kremlin was out of touch.

According to a recent study by the Federal Statistics Service, more than a third of households cannot afford two pairs of shoes for each family member every year.

In other findings, one in four could not afford to celebrate a holiday with friends, while one in two could not afford to go on a week-long vacation.

But Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov questioned the criteria for the study.

"I cannot understand why they are talking about shoes," Peskov told reporters.

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"I would not look at this reasearch from a practical point of view. It's more academic in nature."

The Federal Statistics Service study -- which was released on March 31 -- surveyed 60,000 households across the country last year.

Fifty-three percent of families polled could not cope with unexpected expenses, while 11 percent did not have enough money to purchase vital medicines.

The latest study is an embarrassment for Putin who promised to halve Russia's poverty rates in the next six years, when he was re-elected for a fourth presidential term in 2018.

Russians have seen their purchasing power steadily decline over the last five years.

The trend is showing no sign of slowing, despite Russia recovering from a 2015 recession brought on by a fall in oil prices and Western sanctions over Moscow's role in the Ukraine conflict.

As a result of a controversial pension age hike and falling living standards, the 66-year-old Russian leader's popularity ratings have taken a beating and observers point to signs of rising discontent across the country.

Peskov's comments drew sharp criticism online.

"An inability to buy shoes is a sign of poverty. No need for the Kremlin to refine its rhetorical skills, showing once again that it is divorced from reality," one Russian said.

"We have to conduct a study and give Peskov two pairs of shoes for a year: slippers for the summer and felt boots for the winter," wrote another critic.

"And then we will ask whether this is a practical or an academic study."

Russia's top opposition leader Alexei Navalny has repeatedly criticised Peskov and other members of Putin's inner circle for their lavish lifestyle.

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